a feast of dry fried chicken wings at San Tung

by foodhoe on February 16, 2015

1031 Irving St., SF, CA 94122 | (415) 242-0828 | website

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Last weekend, Mr. K and I met up with a bunch of friends at an old favorite, San Tung Chinese Restaurant in SF to catch up and to plow our way through platters of their famous dry fried chicken…  It’s been a while since our last visit, and they have opened a couple of new locations which seems to have offset the long lines.  There’s one next door and another offshoot south of Market that I wrote about here.  We had enough people that we were able to reserve a table for lunch at 12:30 on a Saturday, and while there was a line outside the door, we were seated upon arrival.

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San Tung is still quite popular, the tables were filled with families and other devotees of their chicken wings, with platters of said wings on every table.  The restaurant and the menu look exactly the same, which is reassuring.

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a memorable feast at San Tung

Our server dropped off a plate of the housemade kimchi which was spicy enough to numb my tongue and make my lips tingle.  This stuff is incendiary and legendary, and the fact that it is on your table is an indication that the specialty items are Chinese-Korean dishes, and note that San Tung is a variation of Shandong, a province that is located on the coast in Northern China.

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I had a few reasons for arranging this visit: 1. devouring wings, 2. doing so with the friends who introduced me to San Tung (thanks jaycee and Chris), 3. I needed to hand over the award I had picked up in New Orleans last month that San Tung’s Dry Fried Chicken had won for Chowzter’s fast feast award for best asian dish in North America for 2015.  The last item proved to be the hardest to accomplish… It was like a comedy of errors, I called several times beforehand asking for either the owner or manager and was always told they were not available.  When I checked in at the restaurant for our reservation, I was told the same.  Perhaps they were afraid I wanted to complain about something?  Well, you have to give the staff a gold star for their effective protective barrier of the boss. More on this later…

We had 3 orders of the signature dish Dry Fried Chicken ($8). I have been with people who want their own plate, but we were barely able to finish with our table of 9 enthusiastic eaters.   The plates of wings came out at intervals, each one fresh from the fryer.  The wings were fairly large, coated with a light batter that is fried to a delectable crisp with lovely crunchy edges, juicy and tender on the inside.   They are tossed in a spicy sauce that is like a sweet, tangy caramel infused with garlic and soy, and is so finger licking good.  They have a boneless version, but gnawing all the crispy bits off the bones and licking your fingers clean is part of why we love them.

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You should definitely wait a few minutes to let the fresh from the fryer wings cool so you don’t burn your tongue, but also because, like caramel, the sauce thickens as it cools and absorbs more heat from the dried chili peppers, which gives the crispy wings that addictively sticky, spicy sweet glaze.

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Besides the wings, the restaurant is known for their hand pulled noodle and dumpling dishes.  The pork dumplings ($7.25) come twelve to an order.  The wrappers are robust and chewy and filled with a savory blend of ground pork and napa cabbage seasoned with fresh ginger and garlic.  These meaty treats are even better drizzled with a little soy sauce and vinegar.

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The Shrimp and leek dumplings ($8) were frilly and tender, filled with a delicious mixture of ground shrimp and pungent chinese chives, infused with the ginger and garlic.  These go really well with a bit of the spicy chili oil from the condiment tray.

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Another recommended dish are the Dry Sautéed Green Beans ($8.50), the green beans are flash fried until blistered but still crisp, then tossed in a garlicky sauce with chinese pickle.

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Dry Black Bean Sauce Noodles ($9.75), Shrimp, calamari, and scallops in a dry dark soybean sauce served over a bowl of fresh homemade noodles.  You have to mix these up, which requires a bit of effort, so that the sauce coats the mound of chewy noodles underneath.  It looks dense but is actually mild but flavorful.

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The Noodles With Peanut Sauce ($9.75), mixture of shrimp, scallops, chopped water chestnuts, mushrooms, onions and peas in a spicy peanut sauce served over a bowl of fresh homemade noodles.  This also requires vigorous stirring, it is spicy and flavorful and a great complement to the meal.

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We ordered a couple of vegetable dishes, the Spinach sauteed with garlic ($8.50) was a lovely mild side dish.

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The Seafood with vegetables ($8.50) was flavorful and fresh, the seafood was tender and plump, a fine rendition of a classic Cantonese dish.

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At the end of our meal, I spotted a woman sitting on a low seat behind the counter and I walked over with the award in hand.  Aha, I had found the elusive owner!  She was a bit abashed and embarrassed and called her son to come over from next door, who accepted the award and smiled for the paparazzi.  She pointed out that they don’t post anything from Yelp, Zagat, or any other restaurant reviews in the restaurant.  Instead she thanked me and said she felt good about the recognition, but that she would take the award home where she could enjoy it privately.  I was just glad to have made the pilgrimage for those excellent wings…

San Tung on Urbanspoon

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

grace February 18, 2015 at 6:09 am

my boyfriend would be in absolute heaven…and i’d be pretty content too. 🙂

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